Japan's Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Hakubun Shimomura today called upon the first student intake of the Tsukuba International Academy for Sport Studies (TIAS), an integral part of the Sport For Tomorrow project pledged as part of the commitment to hosting Tokyo 2020, to turn into the first wave of world ambassadors for the programme.
Addressing the 21 young people from 37 countries here in his Ministry Office, Shimomura asked them to help in publicising the Japanese Government's six-year plan to offer sports and coaching expertise and anti-doping assistance worldwide, as well as establishing the TIAS to foster international sports leaders, and told them: "I have a lot of expectations of you."
The students, currently attending a two-week Sport Event Management and Organisation Seminar hosted by TIAS with the assistance of the Lausanne-based International Academy of Sport Science and Technology (AISTS), were effectively briefed by the Minister on the background to their programme.
"This whole project started after our Prime Minister made a promise to the International Olympic Committee in September last year that Japan will give a commitment to the world by engaging in the Sport For Tomorrow project," Shimomura said.
"This is a programme to make a contribution to more than 10 million people in over 100 countries, and you are the first group of students in this programme. So that means you are representing 10 million people, and I hear that all of you are excellent people.
"It looks like such an excellent programme from a Japanese perspective that I even want to participate myself!
"The Tokyo Olympics of 1964 were held in October and this moment marks the 50th anniversary of those Games.
"Tokyo will be honoured to have the Games for a second time - and we will be seeking your cooperation and support.
"At the time of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo we want to take the opportunity of raising the spirit of sport that is indicated in the Olympic Charter up to the next level.
"We will not just be looking at the Games in terms of new technology, we will be looking at all the programme of sports.
"The word 'Do' in Japan means 'the way you should live'.
"You may only be in Tokyo for a short period of time this time, but if you come up with any good suggestions about our way of living, let the Japanese staff here know them.
"And when you return to your countries, if you feel a particular aspect of Japanese culture might be greatly appreciated by your peers, please let them know so you can convince them to want to come to Japan in 2020.
"I notice you are all wearing tee-shirts with the 'Sport For Tomorrow' logo, which is designed to look like a paper plane.
"I hope to initiate a movement that will make our commitment known in the world of sport.
"And you can help that by wearing your tee-shirts and propagating the logo.
"So I have a lot of expectations of you as the first participants in this programme!"
German participant Carina Mayer thanked the Minister for the invitation to his office, adding: "On behalf of all of us I want to congratulate you, as well as the TIAS and AISTS, for the fantastic sessions that have been delivered to us.
"We have listened to a series of expert speakers and have experience the most outstanding hospitality. Thank you for this fantastic opportunity."
Now that the Sport For Tomorrow programme is up and running, the next big task is to identify the list of most deserving recipients of the Japanese expertise being offered in a multi-layered operation also involving the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the JICA Volunteers Programme, the Japanese Foundation .
"We need to identify who are the targets," Takumi Kawahara, director of the Secretariat of the Sport For Tomorrow Consortium, told insidethegames.
"We have the framework in place, and that is very important.
"Now we must disseminate information within Japan and around the world.
"We want to start getting the Sport For Tomorrow logo known within the Japanese media, for instance.
"Japan is already offering a lot of assistance in many countries in a lot of different ways.
"The big thing we want to do now is to get them all on the same track and working in one direction.
"That is the point.
Then we can create a movement.
"But first we need to strategise it.
"We need to decide 'What kind of sports?
"'What countries do we focus on?'
"There may be around 30 per cent going to ongoing projects, so for the remaining 70 per cent we will say, 'How do we strategise that?'
"Maybe we will look at one project and see it is going successfully and say, 'Why don't we put more into it?'
"Or if it is going okay, maybe we will say 'Why don't we go into another area?'
"Everything needs to be balanced and coordinated."
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